John Sammis’ gospel hymn, Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey, summarizes our text today. This text brings out two strong thoughts: One of encouragement and one of challenge.
God loves us is a reassuring thought. It encourages the Christian. God assures us that he walks with us through life and assures us of a heavenly home when we are no longer citizens of this planet.
But these words of encouragement are also applicable to the unbelievers in our communities. God is pleading with those who do not claim him as their Savior. Although the day of grace will end some day, it has not ended yet. He still speaks to us. Christ died for us. In his death and resurrection, Jesus paid the price for our sins. All that is left for us to do in order to have a personal relationship with God is to invite Christ into our life.
Now comes the challenging part of the text: God not only tells us what he has done for us, he also makes it clear that he wants us to live as his obedient children. This is a challenge for us as we walk through this world that is filled with temptations that are contrary to God’s will. Peters says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” We are to live as strangers in this world.
People who yet have to become Christian often ask, “Do you mean that all I have to do is accept Christ, and then I can hang on to these sins that are present in my life?”
The answer is clear, “Just as God is holy, so be holy.” Let me illustrate.
Not all of our sins will be overcome in this life. However, our attitude toward these old sins will be different when we conform our life to God’s will. Once, a new convert became a member of the ushering staff at our church. It was a Sunday morning and the new usher explained to an elderly lady that the church was packed with worshipers. The lady, who had a hearing loss, defied what he said and started to enter the sanctuary. The usher tapped her on the shoulder and said, “Lady, there are no seats in the sanctuary, but it you want to make a damn fool out of yourself, just go and see for yourself.”
That Sunday afternoon the elderly lady called me and said that the usher had treated her quite improperly. I expressed my concern and told her a bit about the usher. This person had little education. He had not been raised in the church and had little knowledge of proper behavior for an usher. In the midst of my explanation, the dear old lady said, “I understand. I am so happy that he is in church. We all have our troubles battling those old sins.”
Only a few weeks later I had coffee with that usher and thought the setting was right to tell him about swearing at the lady. He recalled her insistence on going into the sanctuary. However, since profanity had been such a part of his vocabulary, he did not recall using it on that Sunday. Then he replied, “Cleaning up my language is one of my greatest difficulties since becoming a Christian. But I am working on it.”
Well, I doubt that he got the job completely done because only a short time later he suffered a heart attack and died. But this I know, he died fighting his sin. God grant that I may do the same.
No, we do not delight in our sins. However, we ask God to forgive us and be merciful to us in our struggles.
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do . . .” (vs. 14-15).
Our text also tells us to have a sincere love for your brothers. “Love one another deeply from the heart.” What does this mean? Certainly it means that we will be kind each other. If we can assist our brother or sister in any way, it will be our desire to do so. But it is the adverb “deeply” that catches my eye.
Could it be that a brother has all the necessities of life according to worldly standards, but is living without Christ? He has no relationship with the Lord. If Christ is the only way to heaven, which he is, and that brother should die today, according to the Word he would not be saved. Is it really loving one another to let one year go by after another without talking to this brother about his relationship with the Lord? We humans cannot bring anyone to faith. However, loving others sincerely means telling them what the Lord has done for us.
I close this sermon with an old deacon’s prayer that was used in our church when I was a little boy and remains with me today.
When the service was over, the deacon stood before us and prayed,
“Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you, that of your great mercy, you have given us your holy and blessed Word, by which you do also gather your Church. We humbly ask you, grant us your Holy Spirit that we may receive your Word with thankful hearts, live according to your Word, and at last obtain eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.”
How true the song is, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”